Friday, January 29, 2016

Philemon Adventures (TOON Books)

Frédéric Othon Théodore Aristidès, but more commonly known as Fred, was a French cartoonist best known for his series called Philemon. Shortly before his death in 2013, Fred finished volume 16 of this popular series and effectively brought the series to a close. One year after his death, TOON Books started translating these titles to English. To date, there are three published - 1. Cast Away on the Letter A, The Wild Piano, and The Suspended Castle. Allow me to tell you a little bit about the series and each of the books individually.

Philemon is a French teenager whose best friend is a donkey named Anatole. He is also a bit lazy, a bit of a dreamer, and has a dad who gets easily aggravated at the "tall stories" that Philemon tells him. The first story Cast Away on the Letter A begins with Philemon falling down a well and landing on a beach. It is here where he met a well-digger named Bartholomew and finds out that he is on the island. The island is the letter A and part of the words on the map "ATLANTIC OCEAN." Who knew that those words on the map were actual places. :) He also encounters a centaur while on this particular adventure. Later in the adventure, Bartholomew and Philemon enter a ship in a bottle and sail to the other A in Atlantic where they enter into a labyrinth. Philemon loses Bartholomew and his wandering around, he escapes back to his home.

In The Wild Piano, Philemon's dad thinks he's crazy, but his Uncle Felix remembers Bartholomew and is stunned to learn that Philemon found him. However, Uncle Felix seems scared to talk about the letter A island. He also fancies himself a bit of a magician, and he decides to help Philemon return and try and save Bartholomew. While there, Philemon breaks a law and must perform a concert on a wild piano. This ends up looking like a mix of concert and bull fight. Because he was able to defeat the piano, he is rewarded with an elevator ride. On this ride, he finds Bartholomew and they try to escape. While trying to escape, they encounter a giant man (perhaps Gulliver of Gulliver's Travels). Eventually, they do escape through a wardrobe (C.S. Lewis anyone?), which leads them back to Uncle Felix's room.

In The Suspended Castle Bartholomew is sad to be back in his village. Having been gone 40 years, he feels completely out of place. He doesn't like the clothes he wears. He misses his castle and his centaur butler. Uncle Felix decides to help him return, but Bartholomew forgets his hat when leaving. This causes Philemon to chase after him. This time they end up on the letter I. They try to make it back to the letter A and Bartholomew's castle, but our captured by a captain with a boat shaped like a whale (thoughts of Melville come to mind). While Bartholomew and Philemon were rowing on the whale boat, pelican-shaped boats flying in the sky tried to capture the whale. They were only able to capture Bartholomew and Philemon though, which they took to a castle suspended by a rope. They were then mistaken as "cutters of the rope," whom the people had been awaiting for 2,000 years. Philemon and Bartholomew cut the rope (improperly) and the castle sank with everyone escaping except the captain who went down with his castle. Philemon and Bartholomew also make it back home.

The first three books in the Philemon series are absurdly delightful. The illustrations are crude, but the number of literary references are astounding. If you are looking for a trip through strange lands, then you'll enjoy this series. I think it's more geared toward teenagers, but adults might find some pleasure in it as well.

These books were provided to me for free by TOON Books in exchange for honest reviews. If you found these reviews helpful, please click here, here, and/or here and hit Yes!